Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Domestic Progression

I'm only half-joking when I tell people I think I stayed with X so long because he cooked. But it's only half-true because while he did cook sometimes, he was as reliable about making dinner as he was with anything else...which is to say, not very reliable at all.

When I was around Riley's age, I loved to bake, but there wasn't a lot of time for it and as I got older, only made dinner a few times. It just wasn't a priority.

I grew up in a household where Dad cooked. My sister continued the tradition. I figured it was one of my deal-breakers; he must cook.

(As a side rant, just one of those examples of the assumptions we make that everyone will couple up. Not something we should be passing on; for the past few years, married households have decreased to the minority.)

When the girls and I lived with my parents, I got a reprieve from the "what's for dinner" dilemma until we graduated into our own place. I admit, worrying about healthy dinners was still far from my mind. And when I would try, I would get stressed because I wasn't comfortable in the kitchen, and the girls would whine with hunger, and convenience food solved those problems.

They never had a weight problem, but the obesity in childhood was starting to make the news. I'd hear my colleagues talk about how their kids loved their edamame snacks in their lunches and I'd feel inferior. Then one of those colleagues told me about Dream Dinners. That became a perfect solution for us for a long time.

It was real food, but it was still convenient. It got me in the kitchen regularly, following their straight-forward directions. Eventually, I stopped clenching my teeth when it was time to make dinner.

About a year and a half ago, when I got serious about budgeting, I realized Dream Dinners was a luxury I could no longer afford. To save money, you really had to do it yourself. I found some recipe sites online and tried to just hunker down and do it. But I still lack imagination when it comes to food. The dinner question was stressing me out again.

After some more surfing, I read in a comment somewhere about E-Mealz. For $5 a month, I get a weekly menu, based on the deals happening at my local grocery store. Thankfully, I'm no longer completely left to my own devices, but can pick and choose from among the offerings (I only cook 3-4 times a week), and save money! Since I started doing this, my weekly grocery spending has reduced by about 20%.

Today, I went home for lunch and while I was there, I got some bread in the bread-maker to go with our dinner and made Riley's lunch for tomorrow. Yesterday, dinner was going all day long in the slow-cooker. I mentioned this to my friend Nancy, who has known me these last 8 years, and couldn't help teasing me for my "domesticity."

I don't think I'll ever be able to just whip something up with no planning or preparation. But I'm still pretty happy that I actually have an answer when the girls ask what's for dinner.


Cat said...

Cool idea. With my schedule I've been relying on the crock pot a lot. Broth + Cream of something + meat + veg = something to eat when I get home.

BigLittleWolf said...

Ah yes - the perpetual "what's for dinner dilemma."

One of my sons cooks. The other - nope. But my younger son did make this (less than $20).

And believe it or not, last night we had a sort of makeshift paella and mussels for less than $10 - in part from a mussels recipe pulled off the internet (moules marinieres). Delish.